I am a retired English teacher starting to live a life-long dream of creating a social agricultural project, where an inclusive settlement grows food for themselves and others while also strengthening their bonds with the wider community in hopes of fostering a healthy, loving and resilient town that lives with a consciousness of the earth as our source, rather than a resource.
Two years ago, we obtained a physical location in a small town 58 miles outside New Orleans. We are located on the Gulf of Mexico in "Old Town" Bay Saint Louis, MS, probably the most liberal population of Mississippi. We are a beach town popular for our seafood, cuisine, pleasure boating, sailing and deep sea fishing. Our winters are short, and we can grow produce year round with simple winter modifications.
We are a walkable community in a bountiful location wth plenty of sun and wind and an ideal size to begin collaborative, sustainable projects with the town's people; I hope that little by little, they will join us in organizing ourselves into a "Transition Town." This new location, in homes that I lived in as a child, gives us the stability that we have sought. We have a retreat house for any kind of activity that aims to make the world a place of belonging and connection to each other and reverence for the earth.
In addition to our social agriculture project, we offer residencies to artists of any discipline to come to our retreat house and create professional works in collaboration with a person who is disenfranchised due to an altered state of mind that professionals would deem "psychiatric." I have taken care of a person with such a condition for twenty-eight years who does not respond to any of the many medications he has taken but does respond to group-body activities such as theater, various movement modalities, drum circles, storytelling, and InterPlay.
So far this person has been the sole collaborator for the artists in residence and three professional performances have been created here with him and produced and performed in New Orleans. We need to install rain barrels and begin setting up recently purchased hydroponic towers. We are also in the process of obtaining chickens and miniature horses. So far locals have referred to us as "the hobby farm," a category that may be well suited to us since we are an experiment that requires both practice and play, as our name indicates.
Cooking / shopping
Help with Eco project
Help in the house
Help with Computers / internet
The culture here shares many affinities with New Orleans, minus the crime and traffic, and here connection to nature is easy. You be exposed to multiple cultures at once. In colonial times, the Germans settled nearby to grow food for the French. The Irish were sent as indentured servants. People of color come here directly as slaves and a minority came as free people of color.
Others migrated from plantations after reconstruction to work in turpentine and textile industries. Slavic people came to shrimp and harvest oysters; Italians came with the food industry, and the Vietnamese came as refugees in the late 70's and early 80's to make a new life in the fishing industry and its attendant commerce. Hispanics, already present, came here in significant numbers to help rebuild the 90,000 square miles hit by Katrina in 2005.
It's a diverse region; the cultural influences remain distinct and magically fused at the same time. Not only will you learn about the history and culture of the region, we will assist you in the mores of this very unique American region. You will also find like-minded people searching for redemption of the planet in large global ways as well as through individual sustainable practices on the local level. The need for resiliency here in a vulnerable eco-system is concrete rather than hypothetical as we strive to recover from coastal erosion, lost wetlands and fractured barrier islands.
The discussion is in the here and now; we have much to learn, but we have the experience to teach. You will get a real taste of inclusion, where the definition of "inclusion" means making space for people at the margins of society, particularly some rejected by society for their bizarre and disquieting behaviors that result in the system labelling them as "mentally ill." You will watch people who know how to create art with a person thus stigmatized and labelled. And here you will find open minds ready to learn of your culture as well.
We have gardens around two houses and a garage apartment to care for along with a huge lot at a site nearby where we are doing a larger garden while also making compost for sale to the community. A youth program coordinator will work once a week to receive leaves and compost. A performance venue will be built on site.
We need a compost maker, structure builder for tool shed, horse barns, chicken coops, tent platforms and stage, privacy fences, and green houses.
We need people interested in youth who might have had a rough start in life. That retreat house is partially our source of income, so we need folks willing to help in all aspects of hosting retreats or over night guests, maintaining the house, cleaning, changing linens, and general house work.
The whole project needs to become more up to date with all sorts of technology, computers, sound systems, printers, scanners, etc, as well as transferring material from old floppies and zip drives to whatever is the most current storage system. People good in these areas that are tedious to a "low digital-intuitive" are useful always.
We also need people willing to spend time with a person who has a severely altered state of mind, sometimes quite anguished, but this is not mandatory Also at the moment there is a lot of sorting of organizing of items stored in a garage, some that still need to be unpacked. So anyone interested in that will be well appreciated.
Additionally, it would be nice to have an office and business organizer and someone who can put much of my work into a digital system.
We would like to convert our hydroponic towers into solar and make passive solar here where possible.
Passive design is also an objective here, and folks with all these skills are encouraged to contact us. You need only be helpful in a few of these vast areas of need, however.
English, very minimal Spanish, would love to learn German
Depending on how many are here at once, you will sleep in a garage apartment with a dormitory like bedroom that has a double bed as well as two single beds, with bath, shared kitchen that once a week is used as a community kitchen, or in an RV that is suitable for two. It's "first come basis," and unlikely that we would have enough here at once to require the RV. (Artists who are selected through an application process for residencies may reside in the retreat house which is a fully equipped home shared by other artists in residence.)
Meals: I am hoping for many evening meals together prepared by you or me or you and all of us us together, but there will be times that you are on your own for dinner and almost always breakfast and lunch are on your own. I will provide staples and a lot of the food, but some of your food you will have to purchase. Often we have things from the garden, but we never have soda pop (canned drinks) and almost never sweets. We have safe water from the city but delicious and pure water delivered for drinking from Kentwood Springs.
Riding bikes is easy on our flat, well-paved, quiet streets and long, beach-front road. Crabbing, fishing, floudering with a light are cheap and fun activities that often result in good eating. Swamp tours are within reach. We have one community oriented coffee shop and everyone should visit often. Sundays could be spent 58 miles away in New Orleans at Congo Square. But best of all, it is a great quiet place to unwind, watching birds, or just enjoying the beauty. One volunteer from England went to a local yoga class daily. Another found Tai Chi on a peer. Every Second Saturday is an evening Art Market & Walk with music and food. Every "Last Friday" brings an outdoor "Night Market." Every Thursday we have a "Fun Walk" that ends at the Mockingbird for half price beer to participants and often a band. We have churches of almost every faith, and lots of options for fun in addition to the ones we create like drums circles, InterPlay and movement games. We will be glad for your contributions.
As far as my expectations of people, I like to be surprised. However, there are some ways I don't want to be surprised: by people smoking on the premises or if they drop their butts on the ground just off the property; by people who stay up all night drinking and can't get up in the morning; by people who go about town telling all our own community's business, or worse, that they go about this small town telling too much of their own private matters; by people not being respectful and friendly to the neighbors or by being too friendly with them; by people who leave their soft drinks sitting around and who don't clean their own kitchen mess; by people who are sexists, racists, or homophobes; by people who become sexual with a townie in their bedroom quarters (which is not very private), or who invite overnight partners; and clearly by people who attempt to convert others to their religious or spiritual beliefs without invitation.
Limited internet access
We have pets
We are smokers
More than two
Maximum 4-5 hours a day, 5 days a week